DP: Movement

And so it continues. My assignments for this semester are now 42% done, and I’m about 55% through the class schedule. 

I have to admit I never did make a point of going in to school to work extra days because I remembered (oh yah!) that I have a perfectly usable and quiet office space here at home, plus I didn’t want to spend extra money on bus tickets  – me being an unemployed bum and all. Staying home for my studies has also saved me the bother of budgeting for campus munchies which, though unquestionably hearty and healthy and not made with any MSGs or sugar whatsoever, are nevertheless money out of my pocket when I indulge.

Right now I’m working on my part of two group projects, and preparing for an exam, all due Monday. It has started to occur to me, now, that I’m actually working on the final projects of my educational career. Because of this, last week when I was readying a short report for submission I decided to go all out, presentationwise. It suddenly occurred to me that once I’m back in the working world (whatever that ends up looking like) I may not get the same opportunities to fiddle with the Word software, so I added a cover page, prepped a contents list, and inserted a subtle watermark – all because I could and because I wanted to, and because it made at least a part of the assignment feel like fun.

I’ve received confirmation that my graduation plans are on track, provided of course that I successfully complete these last two courses. I’m assuming they’ll be fine because I have a habit of just getting things done. 

I’ve also received and completed a survey from the university about my experience there – I barred no holds, believe you me. They know all the niggling little complaints that it is my duty and obligation as an over-confident senior student to divulge.

This afternoon I’m going to send out a resume – what the hey – I’ve got nothing to lose by submitting it. I’m certainly qualified. Anyway, stay tuned for whatever happens next.





Cluing In

Who doesn’t like a tummy rub?

It has only taken me (mumble-mumble) years, but I think I’m finally getting it. 

My dog had a talkative spell last week – sidling up to a lot of other dog buddies on Twitter. He made lots of friends, followed lots of folks, clicked, read, commented, liked, favourited and retweeted to his little heart’s content. He put photos up, lauded others on their photos, commiserated, loved, licked and well – you get the picture. He was a very popular little guy for about two shiny days. He got responses to his responses – he had dialogue with doggies from all over the world – lots of mutual (virtual) nose-rubs and butt sniffs, and hours spent comparing the vaguaries of the ‘hoomans’ and their many well-meaning if mis-guided attempts at parenting. 

Then he quit. Well, let’s face it, I quit. Schoolwork called, snow-shovelling beckoned, the actual world trumped the virtual,  and the pixels just had to wait. For two days he was nowhere in sight, and do you know how many contacts he got from all his new Twitter friends? Not one. 

Anyway, it’s not really important whether Poopsie hears from his friends or not – frankly, he’s far too busy here eating chicken and licking the floor. But what this made me realize is that in our modern, technological world people only bother to look elsewhere when they think there’s something in it for them. As I sadly learned in the Co-op program at university – the answer to the job search conundrum isn’t talent or grades or experience or effort or intent. The answer is networking, rubbing elbows, socializing and social networking. So what we’re seeing in fish-eye sociological terms is that the name of the game, today, is reciprocity – that talent and ability aren’t as important as audience-building and marketing – that presence means more than ability; appearance trumps integrity. Who you know is more important than what you know.   

I’d better stop before you see sour grapes where there aren’t any. I don’t begrudge anyone the right to carve success out of nothing – I rather hope to do that myself. I just hope that success (mine or anyone’s) is ultimately a product of skill and talent, not just the construction of appearances, because a world – and a society – founded on the appearance of stability is a world that’s due for a tumble.


Ps: I’m handing in the next two papers today.

WPC: G’mornin

As my schoolhardy response to the Weekly Photo Challenge, here’s one of the University of Calgary concrete mountains taken  last March on my way to an 8am class. I don’t have any of those early starts this term, and I won’t next term either, so for me this view is a thing of the past – unless I decide to go in for a research marathon.

There has been a lot of work involved with getting this degree, and now that I’m getting down to the ‘short strokes’ I’m feeling very much like I want to get it over with. But this is where I must be at my most disciplined. The work must still be done. The assignments this term, and next, deserve the same level of attention and focus as I gave the last ones, even if there are fewer of them. In fact, because there are fewer assignments there really should be no reason for me to not give this term’s work extra attention. Thg first round of deadlines is boiling up now. Fingers crossed.

I will say one thing (what, only one?): I’m much more up to date with my reading this term. 

Good morning



Click here for a good read.  


Alright, it’s a beautiful day, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to get a coffee, pull the patio table out, haul my books outside with me and park my ass under the sun. I’m going to get some of my reading done. 

I’m bright and alert, vibrant and keen, so why not? I’m focused – sharp and adept. I’m thinking diligently only of my schoolwork and future successes, of the grades I need to be able to go to an ice cream store and buy one of those sweet, delicious peanut treats with all that wonderful caramel sauce and – 

I’m focused and keen, deliberate and firm of purpose. I think only of my books and my processes, never of those really weird-looking clouds floating by, or of the people talking really quite noisily (rudely so!) while walking along the sidewalk in front of the house. What business is it of mine if the neighbourhood crows want to fight with the magpies? Why should I care if the ants on the ground are making their way closer to me with every passing minute, or if that really attentive bee wants for some reason to settle on my head? Why should it upset me that that stupid helicopter keeps flying overhead – over and over and over again!

I’m keen and determined. The words on my page are clear and concise – the grammar perfect and beautiful. There are no distractions, like wondering what on earth I’m going to be cooking for supper later today. There is nothing whatsoever to prevent me from enjoying perfect, productive, scholarly, retentive, laser-like focus in my reading.

Yes, I’m determined and alert. I’m not in the least tired. Not at all dozy or droopy. No, I’m really not right on the point of falling asleep at all. Not at all. Not in the least. Nope. No way.



One of my favourite photo blogs: click here.


Now this is what I call studying! 

My schedule this semester saves me ten hours per week of travel time relative to last semester, and allows me to greet the ceiling when it is light, not dark. As an old fart I’m very grateful for this. 

But, the first week of this fall semester is also giving me some wonderful weather to play with, so I’ve decided that I’m going to do my reading outside, not cooped up in my office in the basement, where I tend to spend most of the winter months. A little vitamin C and some memories of an all-too-short summer season to send me into the studying season. 

After this blog, of course. 

Studying hard



Today is that day. The last day of class. All the work is done. My fancy-schmancy spreadsheet shows 100% completed, the la-di-da grade sheet shows (mumble mumble) and the excitement at the end of term is almost palpable. I feel a little like a twelve year old, just gearing up for eight indolent weeks of summer vacation, of heavenly nothing – of busy-ness, the way nature intended.

Here is my final paper (my last final paper) beside me, hot off the presses, ready to be handed in today. As I look at it there – supine, languid, inert and surprisingly inoffensive considering all the gosh-darned work that went into it – I am reminded of the first day of class when I went up to the prof to have a chat.

I always do this at the beginning of term. I say, in a soft and confidential voice replete with paternal overtones something along the lines of “I may not always get the answer right, but you’ll always be able to read it.”

I take pride in this. I think – stop me if I’m wrong – that someone seeking a degree in communications should actually be able to communicate. Communications requires proficiency in at least two of the three R’s, and if you ain’t got that, then what do you got? If I’m going to try to set myself up in a career as a writer, communicator, or pundit then I think I should have the capabilities, not just the desire and the piece of paper.

So here I go. When I hand in this paper I’m officially closing the book on the 2013 winter semester – my fourth – at the University of Calgary. I’m saying farewell to noodles and Stromboli. I bidding adieu to smelly washrooms and a library that never seems to get cleaned. I’m waving bye-bye to broken chairs and desks that squeak and wobble, and an administration that wants to save money but never acknowledges any of the suggestions I send in. Until September, anyway. If they’ll let me back in after this.

Last day. Last assignment. Last call.



I have come to a conscious conclusion that the best approach to living is found in balance. Balance of opinions, of activity, of thought, of belief – every secret of success in my estimation – in one way or another – resides in balance. Too much of anything is no good for anyone. Too little leads to emotional or spiritual atrophy, or both.

The importance of this to childhood is obvious.

Let’s extend the metaphor of our first exercise a little – the one of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulags. Let’s pretend that we are parents to a fictitious child who we are planning to send to a school. The school houses each of the four streams of religion, science, philosophy and art on its own island. In an ideal, balanced childhood, our child would spend equal amounts of time on each island and would thus be provided with a solid grounding in each stream. He would learn to use his equally-acquired knowledge as impetus toward his own passions.

Unfortunately, the reality is seldom so ideal. Exposures in early childhood usually reflect our ambitions – the parents’ – not the child’s and these are not always governed by common sense. We parents have our own motives for the things that we do. Often, for example, we will try to correct our own disappointments by weighting the exposures of our child to compensate for where we went wrong. The inevitable result of this is that our child – who should be encouraged to find his own passions – is often rather encumbered with ours. This mistake is compounded if we dictate everything that he does – if we take it upon ourselves to decide what makes him happy then he usually won’t be.

Perhaps in our zeal to make life better for him we place our child on Religion Island. We wish to give him God. We wish to instill in him the blessings which we believe come from an exposure to God and faith, and from being bound to Him. Our own life journey has led us to God and we want to pass our beliefs along, good-naturedly saving the child all the years of searching and pain we have endured. But we forget that despite our best efforts he will surely endure pain of his own. We forget that he needs to find God in his own way and in his own time – that being immersed in it at youth might lead to appreciation, but it also might not. Too much religion can be less than healthy – especially in the young – and a steady diet of piety and faith denies the other essential aspects of our child’s personality.

For many people, though, God is already Dead. Weisel talks in his tale of this name about the lack of God at key moments, reasoning that God must be dead or atrocities against children and other innocents simply would not happen. Many take this stand in the face of intolerable personal challenges – asking ‘how can God exist when there is so much horror in the world?’ This illogical assumption of a correlation between life’s randomness and behaviour or belief in a supreme being is the purview of both believers and non-believers alike – believers call it faith and it supports them. Non-believers call it proof of their assertion that God cannot possibly exist as described in the rhetoric.

Thus, if we leave our child to languish only on Religion Island he is more likely to suffer spiritual atrophy than to enjoy spiritual harmony.

Perhaps, then, we should place him on Philosophy Island – the one on which they talk only about knowledge and knowing. Philosophy Island fosters thought rather than contemplation – it focuses on existence rather than simple being. Its emphasis is on the nature of being and the state of man as he relates to his fellows and as he reports to himself. The child on Philosophy Island will certainly learn about his nature (“…no man could become a scoundrel in camp if he had not been one before”) but he will still lack the ability to synthesize his learning into a cohesive argument of his true self.

Too much of such a nebulous existence is no more healthy than a purely religious upbringing. Too much abstraction can pull a child away from the concrete and the assured, into the realms of the uncertain. Too much intellectual depth without breadth of foundation can cause spiritual and emotional inertia in even the strongest of individuals. Humans have a simple need for perspective that philosophy alone cannot provide. Philosophy is – as humans – finite in its understandings, and imperfect in its comprehension.

So what about Art Island? That seems like a very attractive place for us to ensconce our progeny. The children there learn about beauty and creativity and art and music and emotion and celebration of life – and these are surely wonderful things – except that their creative products will always be limited in scope and depth to the mechanisms of method and application. They cannot appeal to their spiritual selves because they are not being taught about them. They cannot draw from rational thought because that is not part of their curriculum. They cannot even access the scientific world because they do not understand it. Their art, music, poetry and writing exists, but it exists in a void which renders their work nothing more than daubs of paint on a canvas, splashes of dots on a manuscript, or formulaic associations on a page. The source of inspiration for their labours is limited to what they see around them. Without access to the religious, scientific, and philosophical all they can really do to secure inspiration is reference previously-produced works.

Or we could place our child on Science Island. That’s the one that teaches physics and chemistry, and biology, and methodology, and organization and determination. There’s a lot of knowledge on Science Island, but it is delivered only in a closed-minded, prove-it-or-lose-it, don’t-believe-what-you-can’t-see kind of way. Science Island is where left-brain agnostics gather to worship the God of provable consensus. To surround our child with this kind of ugly rationality is to steal from him the chance at a spiritual or symbiotic connection to the universe in which he lives. Science proposes much but ultimately delivers little. It can teach our child the empirical, but the true mysteries of the world – of life and death and love – do not have scientific answers.

Heisenberg speaks of two kinds of revelation of God: “The one was written in the Bible and the other was to be found in the book of nature. The Holy Scripture had been written by man and was … subject to error, while nature was the immediate expression of God’s intentions.” This implies a relationship between imperfect man and the perfect environment and underlines the lack of perspective suffered by any child for whom exposure is limited to the purely rational and the scientific.

If each of these islands had a library it would be very small indeed because it would contain only the volumes which pertain to its own narrow discourse. Each collection would have a limited focus because the true breadth of human experience and enjoyment comes only when these disciplines are combined. Balance is always the key. Knowledge of each stream is important, exclusion of none is essential. But a complete human being has awareness of the teachings of each of these islands. The perfect school for our child will shuffle his impressionable mind equally among these islands, and even on to other more distant lands, to make his breadth of knowledge that much greater.

While it is possible and even advantageous to focus on a single idea for a time, there is no long-term benefit to a narrow purview. The best approach for any concerned parent is balance of exposure to many forms of knowledge – this provides all the benefits of perspective, concern, understanding, rational thought, scientific evaluation and assessment, and faith in all the best proportions.

At my age it is difficult to effect a significant change in foundational attitude. My core beliefs are set by a combination of the scientific (genetic factors) and the environmental. I have passed through the acquiescent stages of childhood, in which knowledge is soaked up like a sponge. I have survived the turmoil of rebellious youth in which I questioned all my teachings. I have endured the difficult years spent establishing my place in the world, and my beliefs about it – aside from and in communion with those parental core beliefs which I decided to keep. In truth, though, as open-minded as I like to think I am, it is only in the past year that I have started to allow for elements of all of these streams to shape me. In the past year, some challenging personal experiences have led me to consider all the aspects of this incredible journey, and to apply this credo of balance more critically. Balance is now more important to me than it has ever been.

The gulag has given me a working metaphor by which to visualize this balance in my own life, and to reach for its achievement.